Welcome to the age of choice. Today’s business leaders are inundated with options that are sure to make their organizations run in the most efficient ways possible. But how do you cut through the clutter to choose the right content, apps, or products for your business? How do you know which tools or solutions—once fully implemented—will resonate most with your employees? It’s almost as though we need endless amounts of free trials in order to decide what’s best (one can only dream, right)?
As Learning professionals, we experience the same challenge when it comes to choosing the right systems, tools, or platforms to facilitate learning and collaboration within our organizations. What’s more, we’re also tasked with overcoming employee engagement obstacles. According to Gallup, only 33 percent of employees are actually engaged in their jobs. It’s up to us to bump up that number by creating a culture of collaboration—one that empowers employees to learn and grow, and ultimately leads them to envision their futures within our organizations.
Are All These Options Really Necessary?
In an effort to build collaborative environments and encourage engagement, many organizations adopt tools to streamline communication and the sharing of documents. The tools available to us are nearly endless, and often (without even realizing), they serve as a central hub for informal learning. For example, an employee may find a piece of information, share it through one or more tools, then chat or comment back and forth with a coworker to formulate interpretations and concepts. This type of informal learning takes place all the time, and according to the 70:20:10 learning model, 70 percent of knowledge is retained in this manner. But should this type of learning really be taking place through tools such as Slack or Google Drive?
What’s difficult about collaboration and learning that takes place through our tools is the fact that the actual concepts and solutions derived are nearly impossible to track or rediscover. In the moment, communication and collaborative tools are beneficial. They serve as a means to share uploads and thoughts quickly. But when it comes time for employees or Learning professionals to revisit information shared, they can expect to enjoy the hunt! It’s not uncommon to spend the better part of the morning or afternoon searching for documents or that piece of advice from a coworker—just the sliver of information needed to wrap up a project.
Keep It Together
It is a known fact that today’s employees want to find their own answers to job- and industry-related questions. And when they find answers, they want to share and discuss them with colleagues. Last year’s Global Human Capital Trends report noted that employees at all levels expect self-directed, continuous learning opportunities from their employers. However, to meet this need, Learning professionals need to shift their way of thinking and let loose the learning reins.
A solution that could work for your organization to help promote both self-directed learning and collaboration in a structured environment is offering one platform for both activities to take place. This means combining reputable content, collaborative tools, and a network of colleagues —both inside and outside of the business—into a central, searchable location.
Let’s look at the benefits of combining content, network, and tools into one platform:
- Housing reputable content in one place still provides your employees with ample opportunity to seek out their own answers. Only, instead of resorting to the Internet where information isn’t always accurate, employees have easy access to experts’ books, articles, journals, and videos in fewer clicks. At the end of the day, employees looking to truly advance in their careers will appreciate having the best resources at their fingertips. And when employees go to share the content with peers, Learning professionals can rest assured that what’s being shared is credible.
- Once employees find the content they are looking for, in the platform, to answer their questions or shed light on a trend, they can add their own ideas to the content (without having to worry about copyright issues), just as they would in a Google Doc or Slack thread. The only difference: The new ideas paired with the original source, and the discussion that is sure to follow, will be easily discoverable in the future.
- The sharing of content and ideas can be as private as Learning professionals want it to be. Learning pros can establish a private company group that allows for easy uploading of documents and streamlined collaboration among peers. An added benefit is Learning professionals can recommend resources to employees. By approaching employees with recommendations rather than required readings or courses, employees will still feel they’re free to engage in the content that’s best for their needs. Additionally, establishing a private group is a great way to monitor who is engaging most within the company.
I’ve seen businesses successfully implement this type of centralized platform—one that combines reputable content, networking, and collaborative tools. Companies that adopted a centralized platform saw a 125 percent increase in learning activity taking place within the platform during the last three months (when compared to the previous quarter), as well as a 179 percent increase in content consumption through the platform within the same timeframe. Overall, companies experience higher continuous engagement in the learning process through a centralized platform as time passes.
Who knows, maybe centralizing learning and collaboration in one spot is a step in the right direction when it comes to capturing the attention of employees and keeping them engaged in their jobs. After all, freedom to learn is in high demand.
Mike Conner serves as Chief Evangelist for BlueBottleBiz, a collaborative learning platform for business professionals.